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dog cat suitcase pet travelThe screaming baby, the armrest hog, the big sweaty guy who forgot to put on deodorant — these top many travelers’ lists of undesired airplane seatmates. But one reader recently wrote in to complain about a fellow passenger of the furry, four-legged variety:

“On an Alaska flight, a cat was placed behind me. I was not asked if it was all right with me. I have medical problems with cats and do not want to travel with cats or dogs. … I should have been told at the time of reservation that animals were going to be onboard, so I could have made a decision not to travel on that flight. … Let animals stay in the cargo area where they belong. They leave behind scents and hair.”

It’s true that the rights of traveling pet owners currently trump the rights of passengers who start sneezing as soon as they even look at a cat or dog. Part of that, of course, has to do with money; airlines rake in anywhere from $75 (Southwest) to $125 (Delta and American Airlines) every time someone brings his or her pet into the cabin. But it can also be a matter of safety. While thousands of people ship their pets in the cargo hold every year, there are plenty of horror stories about animals dying during the process — often due to extreme hot or cold temperatures while the plane is sitting on the ground. (Cargo hold climate controls kick in only when the plane is actually in flight.)

So what’s an allergic traveler to do? First off, when you check in for your flight, ask an airline staffer whether there will be any animals onboard. If so, the agent may be able to help you find an alternate flight. Of course, change fees or other penalties may apply.

If you’re on the plane before you realize you’ve been seated next to someone’s furry friend, speak with the flight attendant — he or she may be able to find someone else willing to switch seats with you, especially if you have a pressing health concern.

Do you think it’s fair for pets to be allowed on planes? Vote in our poll or leave a comment below!

– written by Sarah Schlichter

15 Responses to “Should Pets Be Allowed on Planes?”

  1. Pemberton says:

    Pets are people too! Well, not really. But they should be permitted to fly in the cabin on some flights. However, I think that allergy suffers should at least be able to change flights without paying extra fees if they’re going to be stuck onboard with something that will make them sick.

    This reminds me of the debate on whether there should be a designated “family section” for passengers with children on planes. Although in my experience, people seem to get more annoyed when they’re seated near a crying baby versus a small dog.

  2. Michael says:

    I’m not an animal hater by any means, but human comfort and concern comes before pets. Allergies to dogs and more so to cats is a very common condition. Those who have allergies towards cats and dogs have no choice but to deal with it and stay away from them. Pet owners make a choice to own a pet and to travel with them, they should be the ones who need to find alternat means of travel for them and if need be, endure the extra cost and discomfort that goes with it NOT Joe or Jane traveler. It’s about choice, pet owners have a choice, those with allergies do not. Pets should not be allowed in the cabin of any flight.

  3. quacks5 says:

    I’ve had both pets and allergies (mainly to plants) my whole life, so I have sympathy for both sides. The good thing about true allergies (as opposed to non-allergic rhinitis, I have had both) is that it is treatable–take an antihistamine. (Of course, anyone prone to severe allergic reactions should always have emergency meds on hand.) There are many uncomfortable things about flying that you cannot control, and the dry, stale air is one of them that bothers me.

    You can’t avoid animals on planes entirely, as working animals will be permitted on board. I once had a transatlantic flight to Turkey right after some earthquakes and one of the passengers was a search and rescue dog being sent as a gift. Since he was a working dog he did not have to be kenneled, and even took a walk or two during the course of the long flight. (Of course, he was well-trained and perfectly behaved.)

    When I was in grad school once I flew home and took my two cats as cargo since I didn’t have any where to leave them. In the puddle jumper that was the last leg of the flight cargo was behind a divider in the back of the plane and we could all hear them screaming before take off. I’m not sure how them flying as cargo was any better on the passengers when cargo doesn’t have separate ventilation. On the return trip they had to stay with my parents an extra week until the weather warmed up enough for them to fly back as cargo. I decided then I’d never again send pets as cargo. Only once have I taken a pet on board, and he was calm and quiet the whole way.

    I wouldn’t want to take pets on vacation, and now with four cats and a dog a pet sitter is really the only option. But sometime you can’t help it. My niece and her Air Force husband drove from Alaska to Florida just so they could relocate their pets without flying, but that wasn’t an option when he was posted to Germany. I don’t know how they managed to take three cats and an infant transatlantic, but I’m sure it wasn’t fun for them or anyone else.

  4. Charlene says:

    Are you people completely heartless?? Animals should have just as much right on flights as we have!! What about the woman who don’t have kids or cannot have kids, that have dogs they love just as much as their own children? Don’t they have the right to travel with their children? Have you got any idea how traumatic it is for a little dog to be put in Cargo all alone with such intense noise? On top of all that the emotional stress the dog owner has to go thru during that flight.
    Animals have got more right on the planet than we do cause at least they don’t destroy the planet and pollute the air like humans do. As far as allergies are concerned… get over it and take an antihistamine and most of the time you’ll only get an allergy if you touch the animal… like seriously that is such a pathetic excuse!! I also suffer from severe allergies but I still love all animals.

    • Maya says:

      Just because you are an animal lover doesn’t mean you have the right to force it on me and I shouldn’t have to be forced to take allergy meds to deal with them. and some people’s religious beliefs also prevents them from being around animals. Human comfort comes become animal comfort like it or not. And just because you love something doesn’t mean we all have to love it or take meds to deal with it. Thankfully most people are against having animals or planes, they belong in the cargo not in the cabin and if you can’t handle that don’t own a pet but don’t force it on me in the process.

      • Jamie says:

        Just because you (or someone else) has a baby, it doesn’t mean that you have the right to force it on me.

        It is not fair that babies can usually fly for free on the lap of the parent, but my cat cannot. Moreso, I have to make special arrangements for her! I moved across the Pacific recently, and there was no option but a flight, and I will never, EVER suscept the love of my life to traveling in the cargo hold. That’s cruel. You wouldn’t put a baby in there, would you?

        People need to get over themselves and realize that pets are just as much a part of the family as children, and have often been parts of the family for longer than babies. They should be allowed in the plane under the same rules.

        • youmakemesick says:

          I know people who are so severely allergic to dogs and cats that their throat closes up and they can’t breathe! How dare you assume that everyone has the same allergic reaction and that a pill will cure it all. You need to get your facts straight before making assumptions about allergy sufferers. It’s people like you that give pet owners a bad rap.

          I’ve never heard of anyone being allergic to smelly armpits, crying babies, etc. – those are just inconveniences that can be dealt with. Anaphylactic shock, on the other hand, will result in DEATH.

          And, no, we would never put a baby in the cargo hold because it is a HUMAN. There is a huge difference between a human baby and an animal. If you can’t see it, I’m sorry that your eyes don’t work. If you don’t want your animal to go through the stresses of cargo travel, then you should ride in the cargo with it to console it.

  5. Charlene says:

    And another thing most of our little dogs are cleaner than most people and don’t stink like the humans on airplanes. What about the big fat guy that books one seat when he is supposed to book two seats. People carry more diseases than small pets and that’s a fact. We allow dogs into our homes and we love them as our own children, why should they be treated like a disease on flights. They teach us how to love and they love us unconditionally.

  6. Brian says:

    I love how everyone who assumes cats/dogs shouldn’t be allowed on planes are ‘heartless’

    I feel that I have a heart and love and own animals, but I made a choice to own them. My choice to love and care for an animal is mine and mine alone. Boarding a plane with my animals is rude in my opinion – again, this coming from a cat and dog owner.

    You basically force your decision to own a cat or a dog onto many other people by taking them on an airplane.

    Furthermore, I have relatives who are deathly allergic (yes, DEATH). How would you feel if a small child died on an airplane because you decided you couldn’t live without your cat? Granted that’s worst case scenario but that odds are that there are many allergy sufferers on any flight you board with your cat – you are basically ruining those peoples flights.

    To Charlene – I can see you are very heated about this subject, but your statement that people only get allergies when they ‘touch’ animals is outlandish. The vast majority of people who suffer from allergies, do so because of airborne allergens, such as polin and cat/dog dander. I don’t see people who suffer from polin going around rubbing their faces in the trees. I’m happy to see that you love your pets so much, but putting them in confined spaces with humans that didn’t choose to be there w/ something that makes them suffer so much (speaking from experience) can be traumatizing to humans and animals alike

    Consider this situation – you bring a cat on an airplane for a cross-country flight. There is a small child there with severe allergies. They didn’t bring their meds because most people don’t realize that cats specifically are allowed on flights (most people know about dogs, ie seeing eye dogs, etc). The child starts to suffer immensely and stops breathing. Is the childs life and comfort worth more than that of your cat(s)? Think about that before your respond – I’d find it hard to respect anyone that feels a cats/pets life is more important than that of a child.

    Im sorry, but I call that downright rude and irresponsible and arrogant in some cases

  7. Brian says:

    Furthermore, you can’t simply just ‘take an antihistamine’ – for certain kinds of allergies I have you have to take 3 different kinds of antihistamine + a beta blocker + eye drops + I have a rescue inhaler because, well… I stop breathing.

    That kind of statement is short-sighted at best…

  8. Nyler says:

    There should be certain flights that are pet friendly. Animals should be kept in kennels. Everyone is happy. I always have to sit on a plane with a crying baby. Barking is just is just as annoying. And allergies are a real threat. I see both sides. But with pets who are baby’s to some consideration should be made for both parties.

  9. Martha Bailey says:

    Charlene, love it, I couldn’t have said it better.

    • msfairwe says:

      anyone who thinks people love their animals as much as people love their children wasn’t loved as a child and needs to get their head examined.

  10. Laura says:

    I can’t travel on an airplane or go into an airport without getting sick for several days. This is (probably) because of my severe dog and cat allergies. People carry the dander around on their clothes. If there were a dog or cat actually ON the plane, I don’t know what would happen, but I would get at least really, really sick.
    If my allergies were less severe, I could travel on a plane if there weren’t dogs or cats on it.
    People with allergies need no-animals flights (including no service animals!).
    And I don’t see anything terrible about transporting one’s pet in the cargo section, as long as the airline treats it well. Large pets would always go in the cargo section of an airplane, anyway.

  11. Tiffany says:

    I think that there should be some flights where pet are allowed and others where they are not. That way, everyone could be happy- pets would be much safer and less anxious (though most likely still not totally comfortable with the flight) but allergy sufferers (or just people opposed to animals on a flight for whatever reason) would also have a fair option.

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